Responding to the Reality of Lockdowns in South Africa

South Africa is facing a new third wave of the Coronavirus pandemic. Over the last month new daily infections have risen from 1,000 to more than 16,000. Gauteng Province where we work is the most populous in South Africa and it is at the heart of this rise in rates. During the pandemic the official figures in South Africa show that there have been 2 million cases of COVID19 and more than 60,000 deaths.

The nation moved to Level 4 lockdown at the start of this last week. Night time curfews are in place, there are restrictions on gatherings, schools have been closed early for the winter break and restrictions place on alcohol sales. Hospitals are struggling to cope and people are being moved across provinces to receive emergency medical care. Health services are at breaking point and a lockdown was very necessary.

In the townships of Ekurhuleni, where we work, over the last year we have seen the negative impact that lockdowns can have. People there cannot order grocery deliveries online and under the strictest lockdown provisions were not allowed to travel outside their areas. Last year the pandemic disrupted food supply lines and the small local shops in the townships were at the end of this chain. There was a very real fear that townships could run out of food.

Our team in South Africa responded to this by helping establish the Ekurhuleni Cares network – a group of organisations which collaborated to make sure that the most vulnerable households had access to food. Together we made sure that more than 1,000 homes were provided with the food they needed, with around 3,500 to 4,000 people helped by this.

Beyond this is the fact of children who find themselves locked down in households where there is abuse. In a recent study commissioned by the Optimus Foundation in South Africa around 20% of children indicated that they had been exposed to sexual abuse, 19% experienced neglect and 25% had experienced physical abuse.

During the first pandemic lockdown there was a disturbing silence and a drop in cases reported, followed by a spike once children were able to leave their homes and access help and support in schools and our Safe Parks.

Since the start of the pandemic we have been working to adapt to the reality of rolling lockdowns. South Africa is yet to vaccinate 1% of it’s population, with the target of March 2022 for their 67% herd immunity target. We have established a ‘digital Safe Park’ model which will help us to maintain support to children where our partners can not provide face to face support. Where the caregivers within our partners need PPE or permits to move within communities under lockdown we will help them. Where food is needed we will work with our partners to make sure it is there for the most needy.

We will do all we can to make sure that vulnerable children in South Africa can be safe, be heard and have a healthy daily meal. Whatever happens we will help them through and beyond this pandemic.